Archive for animals – Page 2

Spinning wool

Yarn Bethany made from wool and llama fiber

My first time using a drop spindle

I have been wanting to spin our llama wool for a while (we had llamas a few years ago) so when I got a drop spindle I was really excited to learn how to spin! At first we had to fix my spindle a little, it needed a little sanding down and it needed a hook. We didn’t know how well our llama’s wool would work so we went to our friend’s house and got some sheep wool that was ready to spin.  This is called roving. Then I went and looked at our processed llama wool to see if it was kind of like roving and it is. Then the real fun began – spinning the wool! First I did the sheep wool, then the llama wool. The good thing about spinning wool on a drop spindle is that it’s fun, it makes yarn that my sister can use to knit with, and it was really easy!  ~Bethany

Additional info…

This is Bethany’s first blog post ever!  Since she did the spinning, I thought she should write about her experience personally.  I’m just going to add a few notes to add some more specific information.  The drop spindle she bought came from the gift shop at The Little House on Rocky Ridge.  That’s not the official name of the place, but it is the house where Laura and Almanzo Wilder lived with their daughter Rose in Mansfield, Missouri.  We visited it last July.  The instructions that came with the spindle were confusing to us, so Bethany went to YouTube and searched for a video to see how using a drop spindle was done.  What we found is that the one we bought – as is – wasn’t going to work with any instructions we saw.  The video we liked the best was by Megan LaCore.  This is the link:  We noticed there was a little hook at the end of her spindle, so Bethany asked Dad to sand off the pointed end of hers and screw in a small cup hook.  It now works great!  The yarn with the llama fiber is a little thick, so we’ll have to see what, exactly, we can do with it.  It seems way too fat to knit with.  Maybe someone needs to learn to crochet?  We’ll see.  But for now she’s at least learning the basics of spinning.  From now on it’s fine tuning.

The sheep’s wool we used came from our friend and neighbor, Deborah Boehle of Antiquity Oaks Farm.  She’s had a flock of Shetland sheep for years and was nice enough to let Bethany have a little roving to practice on because we weren’t sure how well the llama fiber would spin with a drop spindle.   Thanks, Deborah :)


First Annual Farm Crawl Wrap-up

Wow!!! What a day!! Saturday, August 18, 2012, was the very first North Central Illinois Farm Crawl.  We had a GREAT time meeting so many people from near and far and showing off our little place!  We had more people than I expected and it was wonderful fun.  Keith did most of the tour-guiding.  I spent most of the day under the shelter selling our bath and body products – sometimes with Bethany, sometimes without.  Now and then I got to wander away towards the animals when Bethany was able to handle the job herself.  The weather was perfect – sunny, not too hot, not too cold, just a little breeze.  We couldn’t have ordered a better day.

The four of us who participated this year definitely plan to do another crawl next year – and we have another participant waiting in the wings.  So, next year there will be 5 farms for you all to visit!  The winner of the drawing has been chosen and her gifts has been delivered.

We still have to all meet together to discuss any improvements that need to be made for the next one.  Suggestions are welcome.  For us, the one thing we want to be different is for our gardens to actually be in good condition, though the weather will need to cooperate a little better.

I’m sorry we don’t have more pictures to share.  We took a few of the tables before people started arriving and after that we were so busy, we didn’t think about it.  Next year I’ll have to have one of our children snapping pictures throughout the day.

We’re glad so many came and we look forward to a great Crawl in 2013!

The Farm Crawl is Quickly Approaching!

It’s now less than THREE WEEKS until the North-Central Illinois Farm Crawl date!  Here’s a picture of the signs we bought to post on the roads leading to our place.  The other 3 farms also have identically-designed signs with their farm name on them.  This way it will be easy for you to find us.

For the past few months since we decided to do this, we’ve been plodding along, talking and planning.  Now it’s almost here – crunch time!  I don’t know what the other farms have managed to accomplish in the past few weeks since our last meeting, but we haven’t been able to do much of anything.  I’d just gotten back from a trip to Texas to take my sister and her kids to see our dad.  Then came our county 4-H fair.  My daughter was showing 2 of our goats which required twice-a-day care, plus doing a cake decorating demo/show AND the talent show.  That all took up the better part of 4 days.  Then I had one week to take care of things here and other errands, but outside farm work didn’t manage to wiggle in there.  Then we left for Florida to visit my husband’s parents and we just got back yesterday.  Phew!

So, here we are with just over 2 weeks to accomplish all we want to in order to make this place a little more presentable to our guests.  The garden is 4′-5′ deep in weeds.  I’m not even sure what’s alive in there.  We’ve had only about a half-inch of rain over the past month or so and haven’t watered much.  After the weeds are gone I’m going to plant some fall crops: green beans, beets, turnips, maybe try some pumpkins.  Again.  None of the winter squash or beets we planted in the spring came up.  I want to make at least 4 more kind of soap so you’ll have a good variety of Christmas soap to choose from (not to mention all the others.)  We’ll do what we can.  But, at the same time, I want you all to get the real story of what it’s like to try to run a teeny-tiny farm in the midst of modern 21st-century life.  This isn’t Little House on the Prairie – or at least our idealized version of what that was.  Those people worked HARD – morning to night.  We have modern conveniences like tillers, washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc.  But we also have a lot of outside activities that take us away from home – plus the full-time (or more) job Keith has to pay for us to have a home, electricity, etc.  Not to mention a much larger home then that cabin on the prairie and many more clothes and other items.  So though we don’t have the hard, physical labor day in and day out – we do have a lot of things taking up our time.  Plus a lot of other distractions we have to learn to manage better.

So, for the next two weeks we’ll be getting ready for your visit.  The place won’t be picture perfect.  But, after all, it’s the people that count the most.  We can’t wait to see you all on August 18!

Chocolate’s New Piglets

This evening Keith and I were on our way down the driveway to do chores when I asked him if we had another heat lamp available.  One of them is with Tigerlily and her new kid.  I wasn’t sure if we had a second one.  Chocolate, the Guinea Hog, has gotten a lot larger in the past few days and I felt her piglets could come soon.  He located a heat lamp and we were discussing whether or not she would really be due already.  I said that because the low temps at night are near freezing and she lost 7 of her first 10 piglets on a 32 degree night, I didn’t want to risk it.  By then, he was in the pen and opening the door to go in her building to set it up, and asked if she was really due now.  I said that I wasn’t sure and was trying to remember if we put her and York together in December or January.  Then he said, “Hey – there’s piglets in here.”  I said, “I guess she’s due now.”

They were all dry and running around and we quickly counted 7.  Then we picked them all up to check the sex.  They are ALL girls!  Wow – 9 of 11 goat kids are girls.  And now all of Chocolate’s piglets are girls.  Definitely a girl year!  They are all nursing and look to be healthy.  One has a white nose and white front feet.  All the rest are solid black.  So cool!

And Baby Makes 11!

Or 18, depending on how you want to count…

Eighteen goats, 11 kids born this year!  This evening we procrastinated going out to do chores – which turned out to be a good thing.  As I was giving grain to the kids, I heard a big goat grunting, looked over towards the sound, and saw Tigerlily laying in a corner, trying to lick her hind end and bawling a little bit.  Why is she not fighting over all the fresh hay and grain like the others???  I watched her for a minute and then told Keith that I thought a kid was about to be born.

We went in there and, sure enough, two little feet and most of the face was sticking out.  A little black kid!  Very exciting since most of our kids are mostly brown.  This is only the 3rd black kid we’ve had – the 2nd this year.  I got a towel quick and wiped off the kids nose so she could breathe.  By this time Andrew came out to see what we were up to and was so excited to see the little baby face sticking out.  Tigerlily stood up for a minute or two, then laid back down and started to push.  She was making progress, but it’s hard to watch and not help, so I used the towel to grab her little feet and gave a little tug as Tigerlily pushed and out the kid flopped.  It is another girl, bringing our count to 9 does and 2 bucks.  Now that she’s dried off more, we see that her color isn’t solid black.  It’s kind of marbled deep chocolate brown and black, with white ears and a little white cap on her head.  Very intriguing coloring.  I tried to capture it in these photos.

This was somewhat of a surprise.  We’d been wondering for about 2 months if she was pregnant.  She’s one of last year’s runty kids.  Probably her growth was stunted by coccidia and we really didn’t think she was large and mature enough to have kids.  But her belly was getting wide, so we wondered.  Just this morning I thought I saw that her udder had expanded, but I only caught a quick glance and then forgot to take a better look when I got in the barn.  It’s still quite small, but hopefully she’ll be able to produce enough milk to feed one kid.  The thought of starting bottle feeding all over again for another 8 weeks isn’t a happy one.  I only have 2 weeks to go with the other group.  I don’t have any plans of milking this goat this year.  That udder is just too small at this point.  If she can just nurse her kid I’ll be a happy camper!

We also noticed that Rosie is looking rather wide all of a sudden.  She’s 2 and has never kidded.  The question:  Is she pregnant?  Or is she just really enjoying the new alfalfa hay we’ve bought?

Installing New Bees

Today was a fun day!  Despite the threat of rain and storms, it wasn’t too bad.  I was very glad for that as today was the day I picked up a new package of bees from Long Lane Honey Bee Farm near Champaign, IL.  I didn’t really want to get soaking wet while there and I was a little nervous about not getting to install them in their hive today.  As it turned out, it was raining lightly when we arrived there, but it stopped soon after.  And when I got home it was only mostly cloudy, warmish and had almost no breeze.  Perfect for putting them in their new home.

This is my second spring with honey bees.  Last April I got my first 2 packages of bees and the week that they came the weather was great.  It was in the 70’s and perfect for new bees.  Unfortunately, that only lasted a couple of days and then the temperatures plummeted and it was windy and damp and not good.  And it stayed that way for the next 3-4 weeks. By the time it warmed up, it was too late – my bees were dead.  Despite my efforts at keeping them fed, they must have been too cold.  They did manage to build up a little bit of comb and many climbed into it to stay warm, but they died there and I had to pull dozens of their little bodies out with tweezers so that new bees wouldn’t have to do all that housekeeping.

In May I got one new nuc colony to replace one of my packages. A nuc is a box with 5 frames of drawn comb with bees and a queen and whatever they’ve filled that comb with – honey, maybe some pollen and even some brood.  They survived the summer AND winter (a mild winter helped, I’m sure) and now there are a TON of bees in that hive.  I have high hopes of getting honey from that hive this year!

At the time I ordered that nuc, I thought the second hive would make it, but I was wrong.  By the time I knew I was wrong, it was too late to get more, so that hive has sat empty for the past 11 months.  There is a small amount of drawn comb to help out the new bees.  This is a picture of the box with the bees that I picked up today.  There are a lot more bees in there than it looks like, and I think there were more in this package than in the ones I bought last year.  I’ve put the hive top feeder on and filled it with sugar syrup.  The weather for the next 10 days, at least, looks great.  Things are blooming.  I’ve been watching my other bees bringing in a bunch of pollen.  So I think this new package will do well this year.  I’m hoping I might get a little honey from them this year, but if they just make enough honey to get themselves through the winter and be healthy next year, I’ll be a happy beekeeper :)

Eggs for dinner

It’s 4:30 pm.  “What’s for dinner?” is the question on everyone’s lips.  I’m mom, so it’s my job to figure out the answer.  The problem is that I’ve been thinking about it all day and haven’t been able to come up with anything.  And all the meat is frozen.  *sigh*  So, back to the kitchen I go to look around.  Again.

Then I see them – eggs!  Our hens have been giving us at least a dozen eggs a day for the past week, so we have plenty.  One of my favorite quick dinners when we have an abundance of eggs is quiche – or a frittata – or egg casserole.  Whatever you wish to call it.  It started as quiche.  I would make a pie crust and use a pie pan and everything.  One of those used to be enough, but then I had to start making 2, which was too much.  No one really likes it leftover, so whatever was left would go to the cats or chickens and that seemed like a waste.  So I started making it in a 9″ x 13″ in cake pan or casserole dish.  That was closer to the right size.  Usually, only one or two pieces would be left and I was OK with that.  Then the extra 10 minutes to make the crust, plus having the mess to clean up, extra bowl and equipment to wash got on my nerves.  So I started eliminating the crust most of the time.  Also, the quiche recipe in my cookbook calls for more milk than eggs and I didn’t always have that much milk, and I think it increases the cooking time, so that started to get reduced.  I also stopped with the two-part cooking.  Fifteen minutes at this temp and 30 at another.  With the loss of the extra milk, I didn’t feel this was necessary – plus it was an extra step I didn’t want to deal with.  I’d realized that what I was calling “quiche” really wasn’t that anymore.

So I started to call it a frittata.  But, that isn’t truly accurate either.  It doesn’t have a crust, but a frittata is started out on the stovetop in a large fry pan for a few minutes, then moved into the oven for about 15 minutes.  Faster, but too high maintenance.   Why should I have to move it?  It’ll cook in the oven just as well.  I have multi-tasking to do and don’t want to have to be there in 5 minutes to move it.

It’s almost more like the breakfast casseroles I’ve brought to church for our annual Harvest Days breakfast.  Except that those have bread in them and my dinner casserole does not.  So, Egg Casserole is the current name.  The interesting thing is that all the kids actually like it.  Really.  I never thought they would, but they do.  Well, except maybe my oldest son, but he doesn’t eat dinner with us much these days, so it’s OK.

So, here’s my “recipe”:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan with butter or shortening.  Crack 10-12 eggs into my blender.  The blender has liquid measure marks on the side.  I see what the amount of eggs is and add about the same amount of milk, or a little less if I want.  Sometimes I just add onion powder or dried onion flakes to the egg mixture, as well as some garlic powder and some salt and pepper.  If I feel Mexican I add chili powder.  Italian?  Some basil, oregano, fennel.  Add whatever spices you want to the blender.  Turn the blender on low to mix all that up.  Put some chopped meat and maybe some chopped onions and other veggies – chopped small or they won’t be totally cooked – into the pan.  Pour the egg mixture over the meat and veggies in the pan.  Then sprinkle on some grated cheese if you want.  Put it in the oven.  It is done in about 30 minutes.  Take it out when it’s lightly browned.  It will also be puffy coming out of the oven.  It sinks after a few minutes and will be only about 1″ thick.  Cut it up into squares and serve.  It’s that simple!

This is gloriously flexible.  Use whatever meat, veggies, spices, cheese you want.  Or no meat.  Or no cheese.  Or no veggies.  Whatever.  Our favorites are ham and cheddar with or without broccoli.  Or leftover taco meat and/or beans with chili powder and cheddar cheese, sometimes with chopped tomatoes and green pepper.  If you don’t want the veggies in it you can have them on the side or have a salad with it or carrot sticks or fruit – canned or fresh. When our garden is producing, we use different veggies in season.

Whatever you do, this is a quick and very simple meal to throw together at the last minute.  Not to mention cheap.  This meal can cost as little as $5.  It feeds 6-8 of us, so that’s less than $1 per person.  I cut it into 12 pieces.  The little kids generally only eat one, older people one or two.  It’s very high protein so very filling.  With a veggie or salad and maybe a slice of bread with butter, it’ll go even farther.   Give it a try one night and let me know what fun combinations you’ve come up with!

Lily’s Quads and an update on Daisy

Yes – it’s quadruplets for Lily this year!  She was SO huge, I knew she was having triplets, but she surprised us with four!  And, on top of that, they are all does!  So this year we’ve had 10 kids born – 8 does and 2 bucks.  Great numbers!  I’m SO glad we had our new barn put up last year.  Seventeen goats would NEVER have fit in that 8′ x 12′ shed.

They are doing excellent so far.  Lily does have a runt that doesn’t seem to be nursing on her own, so twice a day I’m putting Lily on the milk stand and put the runt up there to nurse.  The others also seem to be favoring one teat over the other, so I put that baby on the fuller side and when she’s done I pick another kid that seems to be hungry and let it finish draining that side.

Daisy is getting better and is almost herself again.  I would not have been surprised to find her dead on Thursday morning, but she was a little better.  Still weak, but was eating a tiny bit.  Today was day 4 of antibiotics and she’s eating like normal and this morning I got 2 cups of milk out of her, which is double what I got 2 days ago.  Hopefully, she’ll get up to full production in another couple of days.  I’m feeding her kids a mixture of her milk and milk replacer.  I hope they will start nursing, though I doubt they will.  So for 8 weeks we’ll be bottle-feeding them.

All 10 kids are very friendly and my children are having a blast with them.  They are friendly and will let us hold them.  They are starting to leap and prance around, which is hilarious to watch.  I’ll try to get a video soon and post that.  For now, we just have regular photos, which are getting increasingly difficult to get since they are always moving!

Triplets for Daisy!

I was starting to think that I’d miscalculated Daisy’s due date, and I may have been off by a couple of days – but this morning we were greeted by 3 newborn kids in Daisy’s pen!  There are 2 little boys and 1 girl.  One of them was very wet still, so we just missed the birth by probably a few minutes.  We helped dry him off, as well as one of the others that was still damp.

These kids are a little bit taller than Petunia’s kids are –  they have long little legs.  Petunia’s kids are mostly solid-colored.  The brown ones have a white stripe that goes partly around the body near their shoulders – similar to Petunia, but hers goes around all the way.  Daisy is brown with white splotches and spots.  So is Sage, their father.  Not surprisingly – all her kids are brown with white splotches and spots.  Telling them apart is going to be a little tricky.  Thankfully, last year we bought some temporary write-on collars for all the kids we thought we’d have.  We never needed them, though.  There were only 4 kids that were different enough in looks and age that we didn’t confuse them.  This year it looks like we’re definitely going to need them!  These two pictures are of two different kids – but you can’t tell by just their heads.  And Lily is so huge I’m guessing she’s also having triplets, and I think her babies will look very similar to Daisy’s.  We’re going to need a little help to identify them all for a while!

Kidding Season is Upon Us

Daisy is due first!

I thought I had another week, but checked the calendar and recounted and found out that Daisy is due to kid in 3 days – eek!  Surprises all around.  First I thought Lily had been bred first, so she was due first.  Nope it was Daisy.  So Lily must be next because Petunia was last.  Nope, again.  Petunia is second.  Then Lily.  Wow – it’s a good thing I now keep a calendar!  So Daisy is due Wednesday, but like people, could go a couple of days before or after.  Three days later Petunia is due and 3-4 days later Lily is due.  The next week or two is going to be very exciting!  I’m just praying for good, safe deliveries and healthy kids and mamas.  Then in a few weeks we’ll get to start milking and drinking that fresh goat milk again.  And shortly after that – making soap!

Enjoy the pictures of our very pregnant goats.  I apologize for the blurry picture of Daisy, but she just wouldn’t stay still and this was honestly the best one to show off her belly.